FOR the fifth time in three years, Canadian international human rights lawyer and nominee for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, David Matas, visited Australia to spread awareness about one of the gravest infringements of human rights in the world today; the continuing abuse of illegal organ harvesting and unauthorised transplants in China.
Over two days last weekend, Mr Matas visited the Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Indian and Burmese communities in Sunnybank and Inala to paint the gruesome picture that has occupied him and David Kilgour since the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPOFG) called on the two men in 2006 to investigate allegations that the Chinese Government were killing Falun Gong practitioners and illegally harvesting their organs.
“Straight up, the allegation is, people are being killed and their bodies cremated so there is no corpse,” Mr Matas said.
“It's done in a hospital, in a closed setting. So there are no witnesses, no crime scenes, no corpses, no reporting, no free press, no documents.”
But pursuit of a number of evidentiary trails, led Mr Matas and Mr Kilgour to back the allegations and the two men have accused the Chinese regime of continuing a bloody harvest of much-needed human organs, killing up to 10,000 death-row inmates and political prisoners each year.
Their findings are contained in a book they co-wrote, called Bloody Harvest.
The book documents the abuse of prisoners and dissidents and urges countries to discourage or prevent their citizens from going to China for transplants.
But as China's economy booms, the thriving “transplant tourism” industry, which saw thousands of foreigners flocking to China for organ transplants, has increased and been replaced by a fresh demand, driven by a class of rich locals.
Mr Matas said the main victims were Falun Gong followers.
“The overwhelming majority of prisoners of conscience in Chinese prisons are Falun Gong and an estimated two thirds of the torture victims in Chinese prisons are Falun Gong,” he said.
Mr Matas said the Falun Gong movement, which in essence teaches methods of meditation through excercises intended to improve physical and spiritual health, started in 1992 and became hugely popular in China.
“In 1999 the number of Falun Gong practitioners outnumbered members of the Chinese Communist Party with the movement having 70 million to 100 million practitioners and the party having 60 million members,” Mr Matas said.
As the movement grew, the Chinese Government started to perceive it as an ideological threat to Communism and eventually, in 1999, denouncing it as a cult, banned the practice.
“Those who continued were arrested and asked to denounce the practice, those who did so were released, those who did not were tortured and those who still refused to recant after torture disappeared.”
China reluctantly acknowledged last year that the bodies of executed prisoners have been used to harvest organs, but despite it promising to crack down on the practice, a thriving trade remains.
Dr Stephen Lynch, chairman of Abdominal Transplantation at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, said Australian and New Zealand hospitals now refused to train foreign doctors who could be involved in transplants from prisoners.
“The abuse in China has to be of concern to the global community because it is a grave human rights violation and because the developed world has been complicit in the abuse,” Mr Matas said.
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